Wide receiver Deonte Thompson, an undrafted rookie from Florida, turned heads during offseason workouts by blazing past defenders for a few long touchdown passes. Early in training camp, the 23-year-old speedster has been running routes with fellow wide receivers Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams on the second unit.
“D.T. has done a good job. For a guy that was pretty much off the street coming in -- don’t know much about him -- he’s done very well,” wide receivers coach Jim Hostler said. “He had some questions about how well he caught the ball. Was he going to be able to transition that to this level? And he’s done great. It’s been outstanding. He’s a football player. He understands fundamentals. He understands football. He can play fast.”
After catching seven touchdown passes in his first two seasons at Florida, he had just 834 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his junior and senior year combined. Some, fairly or not, labeled him as a practice player.
Hostler said the question now is whether Thompson can continue to play at a high level for the long haul. He may need to produce in the team’s four preseason games to edge out other wide receivers for a roster spot.
Thompson hasn’t caught up to Williams and Doss on the depth chart yet -- “They are much farther ahead than they were last year, because they know what’s going on around them,” Hostler said -- but Thompson appears to have a step on sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter, who did not participate in Monday’s practice.
“All these young guys have got to work on anything, but for Tommy it’s pad level -- he’s such a tall guy -- the ability to run routes, and not just be a down-the-field, jump-ball guy,” Hostler said of Streeter, who was drafted out of Miami. “Because as we know, that’s one dimension in this league that doesn’t carry very far. You’ve got to be able to get open, do more than one thing, and that’s the process that he’s going through.”
Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, whom Hostler said must prove he is “more than just an over-the-top guy,” are considered locks to make the team. Newcomer Jacoby Jones, who hauled in a long touchdown pass Monday, is the frontrunner to be the team’s No. 3 wide receiver. And Williams and Doss have stood out at times early in training camp, stealing the spotlight away from Thompson, who has garnered a lot of buzz.
Competing with Thompson and Streeter for leftover snaps in practice have been lesser-known rookies such as Devin Goda and Dorian Graham and 27-year-old wide receiver Logan Payne, whom the Ravens signed last week.
Hostler said it’s too early to say how many wide-outs the Ravens will carry into Week 1. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron rarely used more than three wide receivers at a time in 2011, and the team didn’t get much production from ones without the surname Smith or Boldin.
But Hostler, who has been with the Ravens since coach John Harbaugh arrived in 2008, likes what he has in this group of wide receivers, whom he says brings more speed to the offense than ones from years past.
“You know what [Boldin] is going to do and how you are going to use him,” he said. “We don’t have the great route-runner that [Derrick Mason] was, but we are developing that. I have a couple young guys that down the road are going to be very, very good route-runners. As good as ‘Mase’? Who knows? That’s all to see, but we have a lot more speed. People have to think about doubling us outside a little bit more, the ball going over their heads, and that helpsRay [Rice] in the run game.”